Does medicine mean “drugs and surgery” to you? That is certainly how a lot of people see it. However, physical activity–exercise–has powerful abilities to help us heal. How can we use exercise as medicine?
What does it mean to use exercise as medicine? The concept may seem a bit strange unless you have encountered cardiovascular rehabilitation after a heart attack. You may also be aware of the intense physical therapy needed to make some joint replacements successful. There are also many other ways in which the activities we do affects our health, preventing illness or helping with recovery.
Many doctors would be surprised to learn that exercise can be as powerful in certain circumstances as prescription drugs. How can physicians help patients implement an exercise plan that they can actually follow? Just pointing a finger and saying “Exercise more” doesn’t work very well. People may need personalized exercise programs that are tailored to their medical conditions as well as to their tastes and preferences.
Kerry J. Stewart, EdD, is Director of Clinical and Research Exercise Physiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He is also Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology.
Sameer Dixit, MD, is Medical Director of the Johns Hopkins Orthopaedic Clinic at Green Spring Station and Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery.